Health Weekend Roundup

There wasn't any question what was the better day to be a reporter on Capitol Hill this weekend.  It was most definitely Saturday, when a lot of people were wondering whether Democrats were about to drive the health care car into the Legislative Ditch.


By the time Sunday rolled around, there was an air of inevitability about House consideration of health care reform legislation.  But Saturday, that had all kinds of interesting angles.

Standing in the Speaker's Lobby, the ornate room just off the House floor, dozens of reporters were trying to figure out why Democrats hadn't nailed down the votes for their bill.

Even though Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and others told us that no discussions were going on with pro-life Democrats led by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), it was clear that's exactly what was going on.

The scrum of reporters rumbled their way around the hallways, trying for the latest scoop, as we watched to see who was going into the Speaker's office for another meeting.

By Sunday, Democrats were acting like the vote was over, even though they hadn't really signed and sealed the deal with Stupak and his allies.

That finally came in an agreement to have the White House issue an executive order, which would ban the use of federal money in the health bill for any abortion services.

When the idea of an executive order had been broached on Saturday with some lawmakers, it got a shake of the head from some, who figured that it couldn't really be an idea that Democrats would focus on.

But there it was, in a real document released by the White House, with a working title along the lines of, "ensuring enforcement and implementation of abortion restrictions."

While Stupak and other Democrats touted the deal, it was savaged by GOP lawmakers.

"An executive order issued by the President is not worth the paper it is printed on," said Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH).

"If you vote for this bill, you can never call yourself pro-life again," protested Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA).

Republicans immediately charged that the proposed executive order was full of loopholes, and was nothing more than a political ploy to get enough votes for health care reform.

In the end, that deal did bring over enough Democrats - many of whom were on the fence on Saturday - to give Speaker Pelosi and the White House a pair of victories on health care reform.

Without that Stupak deal - just like without the one in November - Democrats would never have gotten health care reform on track.

In the end, they got 219 for the Senate health bill and 220 for the reconciliation bill.

There might not have been 216 without those pro-life votes.

There wasn't any question what was the better day to be a reporter on Capitol Hill this weekend.  It was most definitely Saturday, when a lot of people were wondering whether Democrats were about to drive the health care car into the Legislative Ditch. By the time Sunday rolled around, ...

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